Ford UK Chairman Would Like to Give Cars to Politicians

26 April 2004

Roger Putnam, chairman of Ford of Britain, last week called on the government (aka UK taxpayers) to help boost his company's profits.

Chapman, addressing the annual spring luncheon of The Worshipful Company of Marketors [sic], told munchers that the UK is the globe's largest exporter of premium motor vehicles after Germany.

To thrive, the motor industry needs a stable economy -- which Putnam acknowledged exists in the UK -- plus less volatility in international exchange rates, and less regulation.

Market globalization is here, now, Chapman said, and should not be "undermined by governments". Despite his wagging finger, he cited no examples of such impairment by Britain's elected representatives.

Remaining in unspecific mode, he called for more balanced implementation of new rules and regulations: a regime that didn’t simply load increasing costs on manufacturing in general without regard to the impact on employment levels and the ability to compete globally.

In the UK the issue of exporting is of crucial importance to the 250,000 employed in the motor industry and the two million employed in supporting services.

The auto market this year for China, with a growth rate of 76% per year, is estimated at 5,200,000 cars. Ford contributes 10% of all UK motor exports, while seventy-five per cent of Jaguars and 70% of Land Rovers are exported.

In appealing for increased government support for expansion and production, Putnam's post-prandial peroration entered a curiously cryptic phase.

He believed, he said, that Nissan might not today have sited its factory in the UK knowing "the present government climate" -- though he failed to enlarge on the aspects of that climate that might today deter the Japanese car giant.

The thrust of Putnam's speech became ever more opaque. Referring to his daily dealings with politicians and civil servants, Ford's chairman said he wished that they had all been given a car to focus their minds on the needs of the industry.

Again, he failed to explain the rationale underlying this interesting suggestion. What could the chairman of Ford of Britain have meant?

Data sourced from: The Worshipful Company of Marketors (UK); additional content by WARC staff